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Full text of "Hour"

UNIVERSITY 


OF FLORIDA 


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COLLEGE LIBRARY 



The Hour 



BOOKS BY BERNARD DeVOTO 

THE CROOKED MILE 

THE CHARIOT OF FIRE 

THE HOUSE OF SUN-GOES-DOWN 

MARK TWAIN'S AMERICA 

WE ACCEPT WITH PLEASURE 

FORAYS AND REBUTTALS 

MINORITY REPORT 

MARK TWAIN AT WORK 

THE YEAR OF DECISION 

THE LITERARY FALLACY 

MOUNTAIN TIME 

ACROSS THE WIDE MISSOURI 

THE WORLD OF FICTION 

THE HOUR 



THE 
HOUR 



Bernard DeVoto 

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY 
WILLIAM BARSS 



HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY BOSTON 
3Tfje ftibergfte $resftf Cambdbge 




EIGHTH PRINTING 



Copyright 1948, 1949, 1951 by Bernard DeVoto 

all rights reserved including the right to reproduce 

this book or parts thereof in any form 

Kfye 3&ibersifce ;press 

CAMBRIDGE • MASSACHUSETTS 
PRINTED IN THE U.S.A. 



To Avis 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2012 with funding from 

LYRASIS Members and Sloan Foundation 



http://archive.org/details/hourOOdevo 



Contents 



I. The American Spirits 1 

II. For the Wayward and Beguiled 27 

III. The Enemy 45 

IV. The Hour 75 



The Hour 



1 



The American Spirits 



W, 



E ARE a pious people but a proud one too, 
aware of a noble lineage and a great inheritance. Let 
us candidly admit that there are shameful blemishes 
on the American past, of which by far the worst is 
rum. Nevertheless we have improved man's lot and 
enriched his civilization with rye, bourbon, and the 
martini cocktail. In all history has any other nation 
done so much? Not by two-thirds. 

Whiskey came first; it has been the drink of 
patriots ever since freedom from her mountain 

1 



The Hour 



height unfurled her banner to the air. The Ameri- 
can people achieved nationality and Old Mononga- 
hely in a single generation, which should surprise 
no one since nations flower swiftly once their genius 
has budded. Look, for instance, at the Irish, for 
many centuries a breed of half-naked cave dwellers 
sunk in ignorance and sin and somewhat given to 
contentiousness. Then the gentle, learned St. Pat- 
rick appeared among them. He taught them to make 
usquebaugh and at once they became the most cul- 
tured people in the world. No one challenged their 
supremacy, certainly the Scotch didn't, till inspira- 
tion crossed the Atlantic and set up a still in Pennsyl- 
vania. 

Or look nearer home, at the Indians. Gentler than 
the Irish, they were an engaging people whose trust 
we repaid with atrocious cruelties. (As when, after 
the French had educated them to brandy, we forced 
rum on them.) Yet a thoughtful man may wonder 
whether they had it in them to rise to cultural distinc- 
tion. They evoke both pity and dismay: north of 
Mexico they never learned to make a fermented bev- 
erage, still less a distilled one. Concede that they had 
ingenuity and by means of it achieved a marvel: they 
took a couple of wild grasses and bred them up to 
corn. But what did they do with corn? Century 



The Hour 



succeeded century and, regarding it as a mere food, 
they could not meet the challenge on which, as Mr. 
Toynbee has pointed out, their hopes of civilization 
hung. Across the continent, every time the rains 
came some of the corn stored in their granaries began 
to rot. Would it be doom, the Age of Polished Stone 
forever, or toward the stars? The historian watches, 
his breathing suspended, and sees the pointer settle 
toward decline. They threw the spoiled stuff out for 
the birds, angrily reproaching their supernaturals, 
and never knew that the supernaturals had given 
them a mash. 

The Americans got no help from heaven or the 
saints but they knew what to do with corn. In the 
heroic age our forefathers invented self-government, 
the Constitution, and bourbon, and on the way to 
them they invented rye. ("If I don't get rye whiskey 
I surely will die" expresses one of Mr. Toynbee's in- 
exorable laws of civilization more succinctly than 
ever he did.) Our political institutions were shaped 
by our whiskeys, would be inconceivable without 
them, and share their nature. They are distilled not 
only from our native grains but from our native 
vigor, suavity, generosity, peacefulness, and love of 
accord. Whoever goes looking for us will find us 
there 



The American Spirits 



It is true that the nation has never quite lived up 
to them. From the beginning a small company have 
kept idealism alight, but the generality have been 
content to live less purely and less admirably. The 
ideal is recognized everywhere; it is embodied in an 
American folk saying that constitutes our highest 
tribute to a first-class man, "He's a gentleman, a 
scholar, and a judge of good whiskey." Unhappily 
it is more often generous than deserved. Anyone who 
will work hard enough can become a scholar, and 
nearly anyone can have or acquire gentility, but there 
are never many judges of good whiskey. Now there 
are only you and I and a few more. One reason is that 
there is little good whiskey to judge — we do not hold 
our fellows to the fullness of the nation's genius. 

In the era called Prohibition we lapsed into a bar- 
barism that was all but complete — though that dark 
time did contribute some graces to our culture. 
In those days one heard much scorn of Prohibi- 
tion whiskey, but the truth is that there was just 
about as much good whiskey then as there had been 
before or is now. (It was then, moreover, that a taste 
for Scotch, previously confined to a few rich men 
who drank an alien liquor as a symbol of conspicuous 
waste, spread among us — a blight which the true- 
born American regards as more destructive to the 



The Hour 



ancient virtues than Communism. Think of it less 
as a repudiation of our heritage than as the will to 
believe. If we paid the bootlegger for Scotch, we 
thought, we might get the Real Old McCoy, though 
one whiskey is as easily made as another where they 
print the label and compound the flavoring.) Such 
good whiskey as existed was hard to find but when 
hadn't it been? Below the level of the truly good we 
went on drinking the same stuff we had drunk be- 
fore. We are still drinking it now. The untutored 
are, and the unworthy. 

The bootlegger, that is, did just what the publican 
had done during our golden age, when the saloon 
business was organized on a basis of straightforward, 
standardized adulteration. Pick up a manual of 
trade practices published in that vanished time. You 
will find listed eleven grades of rye or bourbon (up 
to fifteen in manuals that recognize a more fastidious 
hierarchy of castes) that the proprietor of an honest 
place is to compound on his premises. They are 
arranged in the order of their cost to him. The first 
five contain no whiskey at all; they are neutral spirits 
plus water and some sophisticating ingredients; the 
cheapest one has no flavoring but sugar. Then come 
five more grades, neutral spirits and whiskey mixed 
in varying proportions, eight to one in the cheapest, 



The American Spirits 



fifty-fifty in the most expensive, plus flavoring and 
coloring matter. So to the eleventh, which consists 
of two raw whiskeys in equal amounts, plus a dash 
of a somewhat better one, plus prune juice to supply 
body and finesse, and the manual says, "this is con- 
sidered the finest of all grades, as it contains no 
spirits." Once you got past the eleventh, you reached 
unadulterated straight whiskey at its rawest and 
could then progress by regular steps to the best 
bonded stock. If you could trust the publican. 

Let us contemplate some of the adulterator's art. 
One of the pests who still intrude on the fellowship 
is the knowing man. You have seen him — all too 
often — take a bottle of whiskey, jiggle it a little 
(perhaps after graceful ritualistic passes), and then, 
holding it at a slant, call your attention to the beads 
that form along the edge, nodding his sagacious 
head, a connoisseur who can't be fooled. The old- 
time saloonkeeper took thought of him. The man- 
ual says to take four parts of the oil of sweet almonds 
(a benzaldehyde from which the prussic acid has 
been removed), add it to one part of chemically 
pure sulphuric acid, neutralize the mixture with 
ammonia, and then dilute the results with twice as 
much neutral spirits. "This," it remarks, "is used 
to put an artificial bead on inferior liquors." Or 



The American Spirits 9 

^— — — —— — ■ —"~^— ^■^~— ' 

how shall we give our product something like a 
bourbon taste? Easy enough: 



Fusel oil 


64 


ounces 


Potassium acetate 


4 


<< 


Sulphuric acid 


4 


a 


Copper sulphate 


V* 


tt 


Ammonium oxalate 


V2 


<< 


Black oxide of 






manganese 


1 


tt 


Water 


8 


tt 



And now, "Place them all in a glass percolator and 
let them rest for 12 hours. Then percolate and put 
into a glass still, and distill half a gallon of the Bour- 
bon Oil." 

There are formulas for Rye Oil, Cognac Oil, Rum 
Essence, or whatever else your fancy may run to. 
There are compounds that help to make the blend 
smoother — prune juice (with raisins), peach juice 
(with apples), "St. John's Bread Extract" (with 
dates), raisin extract (with licorice), tea extract 
(with currants). "They are," the instructor says, 
"harmless and efficient aids both to the liquors and 
to the pocket." And surely they make for thought. 

In our enlightened age we have changed all that, 



10 The Hour 



saving the proprietor so much hand labor. We have 
shifted the burden of adulteration from him to a 
working partnership between the manufacturer and 
the Bureau of Internal Revenue. We have, however, 
retained the frankness of the manuals. Everything — 
or at least quite a bit — is printed on the label for 
you to see. If you want less fusel oil, which is re- 
moved by the distilling process but restored in the 
flavoring extract, you can climb through the hier- 
archy at your pleasure. If you trust the bar. Do not 
be cynical: there are some bars which you can trust 
and which will serve you no more adulterants than 
you may order by brand name. But of these how 
many can you trust not to practice dilution? If you 
have found one — and you will from time to time 
— you have found a precious thing and you are a 
judge of good whiskey. 

Never be cynical about bars, in fact, though it is 
right to be wary. A glory of American culture is 
that there is no place so far and no village so small 
that you cannot find a bar when you want to. 
(True, in some of the ruder states it must present 
itself fictitiously as a club or nostalgically as a speak- 
easy.) Many are more resourceful than the label 
admits, many others water their whiskey, many are 
bad or even lousy. Almost all provide instruction 



12 The Hour 



for an inquiring mind in the cubic capacity of glass- 
ware and how the eye may be misled by the shape 
and the hand by weight. But do not scorn any of 
them, not even the neon-lighted or the television- 
equipped, for any may sustain you in a needful 
hour. And each of us knows a fair number of good 
bars and perhaps even a great one. The good bar 
extends across America, the quiet place, the place 
that answers to your mood, the upholder of the 
tavern's great tradition, the welcoming shelter and 
refuge and sanctuary — and any man of virtue and 
studious habits may count on finding it. If you hear 
of any I've missed, let me know. Let us all know. 

But a bar, though often a necessity and often an 
ornament of culture, is for a need, a whim, or per- 
haps an urgency. For the fleeting hour. For the mo- 
ment — the high moment, or the low. For, perhaps, 
the meeting — and may her eyes warm and sparkle 
when she comes in the door, ten minutes late so 
that you will always be one up on her. You could 
not meet her at a better place. Long ago, on 52d 
Street I — but let that go. I was saying, bars are a 
convenience, an assist, a stay and an upholding, but 
the Americans are a home-loving people and the 
best place for the devotions proper to their autoch- 
thonous liquors is the home. And let's be fair: 



The American Spirits 13 

though there is never much good whiskey, there is 
always enough to take care of those who can appreci- 
ate it. The surest proof of the moral foundation of 
the universe is that you can always find good whis- 
key if you will go looking for it. Resolution, obsti- 
nacy, and the spirit of our pioneers will take you to 
it in the end, though you had better provide your- 
self with thick-soled shoes for the route may be 
hard and is certain to be long — and beset with 
gyps, liars, and the knowing man. I don't know why 
but there are more brands of good rye than there are 
of bourbon. And I don't know why the God- 
damned Navy is permitted to monopolize so many 
of them — but there's a tip for you. Keep green 
your friendships in the service, for at any time the 
officers' store may have an excellent one that a com- 
misary (one who has not crystallized his tonsils to 
rock-candy with rum) found on a back road in West 
Virginia and bought up. I have struck Navy instal- 
lations a thousand miles from salt water and five 
hundred miles from fresh that had ryes worth 
traveling fully that far for — yes, worth listening 
to commanders talk about MacArthur. 

But don't let me get garrulous so early in the 
evening. I was saying, there are a lot of sound four- 
year-old and eight-year-old ryes that seldom or never 



14 The Hour 



get advertised. Maybe there are more small distil- 
leries that make rye — the family stillhouse in the 
vale — and maybe that counts. Or maybe it's that 
I'm a rye man myself. But there they are. A whole- 
saler who has grace and enlightenment buys them, 
or a club does, or you have intuitive friends or a 
sudden streak of luck. Regional ryes, perhaps, but 
by no means small ones. . . . You have your obliga- 
tions. If you find one new to you, the rest of us are 
to hear about it. And the dealer's name. 

Well, you say, how good is good whiskey? Out in 
the bourbon country where the honor of the taste 
buds runs 180-proof, you can get an argument in 
ten seconds and a duel in five minutes by asserting 
that it is as good as it used to be. Here the little 
stillhouse comes in again. Men grown reverend 
and wise will tell you that the glory departed when 
the big combine bought up the family distillery. 
They are remembering their youth and the smell of 
mash in a hundred Kentucky valleys. There was art 
then, they say, and the good red liquor had the in- 
tegrity of the artist and his soul too, and between 
Old Benevolence and Old Mr. This there were 
differences of individuality but none of pride, and 
how shall America have heroes again, or even men, 



The American Spirits 15 

with this dead-level nonentity they force us to drink 
now? 

They scandalize and horrify the modern distiller. 
The little stillhouse, he tells you, was steadily poi- 
soning Kentucky. The old-time distiller's mash was 
not only uncontrolled and vagrant — he got his feet 
in it and no doubt his hogs too, and it spoiled on 
him or went contrary or deceived him. Those re- 
membered subtleties were only impurities, or may- 
be eccentricities of the still going haywire, or the 
leniency of the gauger, or most likely an old man's 
lies. He himself with his prime grains, his pedigreed 
yeast, his scientific procedures controlled to the 
sixth decimal place, and his automatic machinery 
that protects everything from the clumsiness and 
corruption of human hands — he is making better 
bourbon than the melancholy gaffers ever tasted in 
the old time. 

We have run into a mass of legend and folklore. 
It reveals that we are a studious people and serious 
about serious things, but it does make for prejudice 
and vulgar error. (You want to know where I stand? 
You must never besmirch yourself with a blend, son 
— what do you suppose bond is for?) Devoted men, 
hewing their way through it, have come out with one 



16 The Hour 



finding that leans a little toward the opinion of the 
elders. The old-time distillers, known locally as the 
priesthood, put their whiskey into bond at less than 
proof, that is with the percentage of alcohol below 
fifty. Four years of the aging process brought it up 
to proof and they bottled it as it was, uncut. The 
modern distiller, known everywhere as a servant of 
the people, impelled by government regulation and 
the higher excise, bonds his stuff at a few per cent 
above proof. Aging in bond increases the percen- 
tage still more, so after bottling he cuts it back to 
proof with water. 

There is instruction here: when you add water to 
whiskey, you change the taste. In the moment of 
pure devotion, therefore, the faithful drink it 
straight. . . . See to it that your demeanor is decorous 
and seemly at that moment. Attentively but slowly, 
with the poise of a confidence that has never been 
betrayed since the Founding Fathers, with due con- 
sciousness that providence has bestowed a surpassing 
bounty on the Americans or that they have earned it 
for themselves. Our more self-conscious brethren, 
the oenophilists, are good men too and must not be 
dispraised, but they vaingloriously claim more than 
we can allow. Their vintages do indeed have many 
beauties and blessings and subtleties but they are 



The American Spirits 17 

not superior to ours, only different. True rye and 
true bourbon wake delight like any great wine with 
a rich and magical plenitude of overtones and 
rhymes and resolved dissonances and a contrapuntal 
succession of fleeting aftertastes. They dignify man 
as possessing a palate that responds to them and 
ennoble his soul as shimmering with the response. 

The modern distiller will tell you that whiskey 
comes to full maturity in its sixth year, that there- 
after its quality falls off. The truth is not in him, 
do not give him heed, and why for a hundred and 
seventy years have sound distillers, and quacks too, 
used the adjective "Old" in their brand names? He 
obviously does not believe himself. At mounting 
expense he keeps some of his product in bond for 
eight years and charges correspondingly, and the 
result is well worth the mark-up. Eight years is the 
longest period for which he can get bond but at still 
greater expense he keeps some in the wood for four 
years more — and with a twelve-year-old whiskey to 
point to, Americans can hold their peace and let 
who will praise alien civilizations. The distiller will 
also tell you that nothing happens to the finest after 
it is bottled, and again he is wrong. He is especially 
wrong about rye. In the spacious time when taxes 
increased the cost of whiskey by only five hundred 



18 The Hour 



per cent (it is several thousand now) the wise and 
provident and kindly bought it by the keg, in fact 
bought kegs up to their ability to pay, and bottled 
it themselves in due time and laid it away for their 
posterity. Better to inherit a rye so laid away in 
1915 than great riches. I have known women past 
their youth and of no blatant charm to make happy 
marriages because Uncle John, deplored by the fam- 
ily all his life long as a wastrel, had made them his 
residuary legatee. There is no better warranty of 
success in marriage; an helpmeet so dowered will 
hold her husband's loyalty and tenderness secure. 
A rye thus kept becomes an evanescence, essential 
grace. It is not to be drunk but only tasted and to be 
tasted only when one is conscious of having lived 
purely. 

And in a world growing daily more bleak with 
science, it is good to know that art keeps its se- 
crecies. Just as the scientists have never learned 
precisely what happens in the emulsion of a photo- 
graphic film when light strikes it, so their most ex- 
haustive researches have never let them in on what 
happens to whiskey during the aging process. There 
is parodox: the alcohol should leave it before the 
water does but the alcohol remains and some of the 
water goes, no one knows why or whither. 



The American Spirits 19 

There is mystery: what happens does so not in the 
wood of the keg or in the char that has been burned 
on its surface but in the zone between them, which 
is quite imaginary but somehow there. And what 
happens is beyond analysis by chemistry or anything 
else — simply, a tendency that whiskey shares with 
man and all his works, a tendency to live by its baset 
self, departs from it and the good triumphs. Who 
wants to know? Enough that whiskey becomes, 
sometimes, good whiskey. (Here the fellowship will 
shout: Glory!) 

For the palate's sake, then, we drink whiskey 
straight. We drink it straight too in patriotic com- 
memoration of the dead who made us a great nation. 
They walked up to the bar, stood on their own two 
feet or on one foot if the rail had been polished 
that morning, and called for whiskey straight in 
confident expectation and awareness of the national 
destiny, and we were a sound society, and without 
fear. 

All those decades, all those bars. The Holland 
House or the As tor House or the St. Nicholas toward 
which the Englishman on tour made by hackney 
coach from the boat, so that the magnificence of the 
New World could burst on him in his first hour — 
such acres of mirrors, such mountains of glasses, 



The American Spirits 21 

such gas chandeliers tipped with a thousand points 
of flame, and all the ryes and bourbons of a conti- 
nent to cleanse away the peat-taste of his Scotch. 
The Knickerbocker ... I had at least this break 
from fate, that I got here in time to know the Knick- 
erbocker. It has been exactly reproduced in the 
most beautiful corner of paradise, with the starry 
heavens stretching away, admission by card only and 
saints to serve a probationary period before they can 
get cards. The Murray Hill, the Parker House, the 
Planters House, the St. Francis — the Silver Dollar, 
Joe's Place, the Last Chance Saloon — river boats 
and tents at the railhead and tables set up under the 
elms when the clergy met in convocation or the 
young gentlemen graduated from college — the last 
Americans in knee breeches, the first in trousers, 
deacons in black broadcloth, planters in white 
linen, cordwainers and longshoremen and princi- 
pals of seminaries for young women and hard-rock 
men and conductors on the steam cars and circuit 
riders and editors and rivermen and sportsmen and 
peddlers — twenty-two hundred counties, forty- 
eight states, the outlying possessions. The roads ran 
out in dust or windswept grass and we went on, we 
came to a river no one had crossed and we forded it, 
the land angled upward and we climbed to the ridge 



22 The Hour 



and exulted, the desert stretched ahead and we 
plunged into it — and always the honeybee flew 
ahead of us and there was a hooker of the real stuff 
at day's end and one for the road tomorrow. Noth- 
ing stopped us from sea to shining sea, nothing 
could stop us, the jug was plugged tight with a corn- 
cob, and we built new commonwealths and consti- 
tutions and distilleries as we traveled, the world 
gaped, and destiny said here's how. 

But there are times when neither the palate nor 
patriotism is to be consulted and this is a versatile 
distillate, ministering to many needs. That other 
supreme American gift to world culture, the 
martini, will do only at its own hour. But man's lot 
is hard and distressful and he may want a drink at 
almost any hour — midafternoon, after dinner, at 
midnight, and some say in the morning. (These last 
drink rum — to hell with them.) At such times you 
may add water to the American spirits. Charged 
water is permitted with rye, if you like it that way, 
and in the splendid city of St. Louis, where civiliza- 
tion took residence long before the Yankees stopped 
honing their crabbedness on rum, call it "seltzer." 
But always plain water with the corn-spirit and the 
good will of a united people shows in the localisms, 
"bourbon and branch water" our brethren say 



The American Spirits 23 

south of Mason's and Dixon's Line, "bourbon and 
ditch" west of the hundredth meridian. (You may 
detect the presence of the Adversary by a faint odor 
of brimstone and a request for ginger ale.) And, 
except when you are in a wayward mood, no ice. 
Ice is for cocktails. 

The water bids our genius show its gentleness, 
taking you by the hand and leading you as softly as 
the flowers breathe toward loving-kindness. Or as 
the homing bird soars on unmoving wings at even- 
tide. On this firm foundation the Republic stands. 
In England they call for a division and the minis- 
try falls, in Russia they shoot a thousand commissars, 
but in freedom's land they recess, speak the hal- 
lowed names of Daniel Webster and Henry Clay, 
and send out for a statesman's standby and some 
soda. Strife ceases, the middle way is found, the bill 
gets passed, and none shall break our union. 

But, first of all, this touch softer than woman's is 
to restore you and me to humanity. I do not need 
the record, a priest, or a philosopher to remind me 
what I am — timorous, blundering, self-deceived, 
preposterous, ground down by failure and betrayal 
of the dream, evidence that though mankind has 
developed past the earthworm it has not got much 
farther. And you, you don't fool me, I know you all 



24 The Hour 



too well, I need only look at you or hear you speak. 
If you were to quote the catechism, "God made 
me/' you would be lying and on the edge of blas- 
phemy, or over the edge. 

f The hell we are. This is merely a moroseness of 
tired and buffeted men, an illusion, and help is at 
hand to brush it away. When weariness and dis- 
couragement come upon us there are many things 
we might put into our heads to steal away our 
brains — Marx, the Koran of abstainers, Mein 
Kampf, addresses made at Commencement or on 
Mother's Day, the Chicago Tribune. But we were 
nourished in a tradition of goodness and the right 
and we don't, and I'll have mine with soda but not 
drowned. The barb is blunted, the knife sheathed; a 
star appears above the treetop, the harsh voices of 
fools die out, and all unseen there was a fire burning 
on the hearth. In a few minutes we will see each 
other as we truly are, sound men, stout hearts, lovers 
of the true and upholders of the good. There's a 
good deal in what you're saying and you say it mar- 
velously well. Dismay, annoyance, resentment — 
we should have remembered that they are traps the 
world sets for the unwary. The battle is to the 
brave, the game to the skillful, the day's job to who 
shall do it fortified. We needed only a moment of 



The American Spirits 25 

quickening, a reminder by wisdom laced with a lit- 
tle water that there are dignity and gallant deeds 
and dauntlessness and disregard of the odds, that 
evil yields and the shadows flee away. A moment of 
renewal and then get back in there and pitch, we're 
doing all right. Well, maybe a short one — and hey, 
there's Bill, get him over here for a minute, a man 
needs to be told it's all a lie. 

The alchemists never found the philosopher's 
stone but they knew that when they did it would, 
by a process in which distillation succeeded fermen- 
tation, transmute base metals into gold. They were 
on the right track, they made a good start, and 
American genius finished the job. I give you: Con j 
fusion to the enemies of the Republic. 



2 



For the Wayward and 
Beguiled 



T 



HE FELLOWSHIP avoids controversy but 
must sometimes accept it nevertheless or even preci- 
pitate it. Though a small company, we need fear no 
threat brought against us from without but error 
or dissension within our ranks could bring us down. 
That is why in austere dedication to American cul- 
ture I now venture into a field where no one can say 
anything without being violently attacked — and 
attacked by virtuous men who err only through 
ignorance, not sin. One of our greatest arts is in 

27 



28 The Hour 



danger. The worst is, this threat comes from 
schismatics and heretics within our small band of 
true believers who should be of one united heart to 
hold our frontiers against the heathen. Error stalks 
the streets and disputation has brought darkness 
over the land. I am not one to withhold the light. 
I know how many enraged fanatics will jam the 
offices of Western Union as soon as they catch sight 
of my text. But I know too that sometimes wisdom 
has its victories. To recall to wisdom some who 
have strayed from it and to discover wisdom to some 
who have sought but not found it, I proceed to ex- 
plain the philosophy of the martini cocktail. 

First we must understand what, functionally, a 
cocktail is. I will inquire into no man's reasons for 
taking a drink at any hour except 6:00 p.m. They are 
his affair and he has a rich variety of liquors to 
choose from according to his whim or need; may 
they reward him according to his deserts and well 
beyond. But when evening quickens in the street, 
comes a pause in the day's occupation that is 
known as the cocktail hour. It marks the life- 
ward turn. The heart wakens from coma and its dysp- 
nea ends. Its strengthening pulse is to cross over 
into campground, to believe that the world 
has not been altogether lost or, if lost, then 



For the Wayward and Beguiled 29 

not altogether in vain. But it cannot make the 
grade alone. It needs help; it needs, my brethren, 
all the help it can get. It needs a wife (or some 
other charming woman) of attuned impulse and 
equal impatience and maybe two or three friends, but 
no more than two or three. These gathered together 
in a softly lighted room and, with them what it 
needs most of all, the bounty of alcohol. Hence the 
cocktail. After dinner you may, if you like, spend 
an hour or so sipping a jigger of whiskey diluted to 
any attenuation that matches your whim with soda 
or branch water. But at 6:00 p.m. we must have 
action. When we summon life to reveal forgotten 
benisons and give us ourselves again, we do so per- 
emptorily. Confirm that hope, set the beacon burn- 
ing, and be quick about it. So no water. 

There are only two cocktails. The bar manuals 
and the women's pages of the daily press, I know, 
print scores of messes to which they give that hon- 
orable and glorious name. They are not cocktails, 
they are slops. They are fit to be drunk only in the 
barbarian marches and mostly are drunk there, by 
the barbarians. It is, however, a fact of great sadness 
that, as well, sometimes they are drunk by people of 
good will, people fit for our fellowship. We will 
labor to bring them out of the darkness they wander 



30 The Hour 



in, charitably assuming that they wander there as 
victims of history. I have shown that our fore- 
fathers were a great people: they invented rye and 
bourbon. They were also a tough people: nothing 
so clearly proves it as that they survived the fearful 
mixtures they also invented and then drank. A 
defect of their qualities, I suspect, led them into 
abomination. They had the restless mind, the in- 
stinct to experiment and make combinations. We 
got radar from that instinct, and Congress, and the 
Hearst press, and many other marvelous or mysteri- 
ous works. And we got, four generations ago, in a 
sudden blight, mixtures of all the known ferments 
and distillates that whim, malice, mathematics, or 
an evil imagination could devise. When the in- 
stinct reached an apex of genius, we must remem- 
ber, it flowered into the martini. But it bequeathed 
us too a sore heritage of the slops I have mentioned, 
and as the twentieth century came on the most 
ominous of these was probably the Bronx. 

For the Bronx was fashionable. The gay dogs of 
the Murray Hill Age drank it, the boulevardiers 
who wore boaters with a string to the left lapel and 
winked at Gibson Girls as far up Fifth Avenue as 
59th Street. It had the kind of cachet that Maxim's 
had, or Delmonico's, or say the splendid Richard 



For the Wayward and Beguiled 31 

Harding Davis at the more splendid Knicker- 
bocker bar, or O. Henry in his cellar restaurant, or 
the bearded (or Van Dyke-ed) critics of Park Row. 
The Bronx had orange juice in it. It spawned the 
still more regrettable Orange Blossom. Infection 
spread and there were worse compounds on the same 
base, as I shall shudderingly have to say at some 
length later on. And then, swiftly, came the Plague 
and the rush of the barbarians in its wake, and all 
the juices of the orchard went into cocktails. Now, 
bathtub gin was not a good liquor — though, gen- 
tlemen, there have been worse and still are. But it 
was not bathtub gin that came close to destroying the 
American stomach, nervous system, and aspiration 
toward a subtler life. Not the gin but the fruit 
juices so basely mixed with it: all pestilential, all 
gangrenous, and all vile. A cocktail does not contain 
fruit juice. 

In that sudden roar the word you make out is 
"Daiquiri." Yes, yes, I know. I have alluded to rum 
before, we must not deny that it exists and is drunk, 
and as a historian I must give it its due. It gave us 
political freedom and Negro slavery. It got ships 
built and sailed, forests felled, iron smelted, and 
commercial freight carried from place to place by 
men who, if their primordial capitalist bosses had 



For the Wayward and Beguiled 33 

not given them rum, would have done something to 
get their wages raised. In both cheapness and effec- 
tiveness it proved the best liquor for Indian traders 
to debauch their customers with. People without 
taste buds can enjoy it now, though the head that 
follows it is enormous, and such sentimentalists as 
the seadogs of small sailing craft can believe they do. 
But mainly it is drunk as all sweet liquors are, in a 
regressive fantasy, a sad hope of regaining child- 
hood's joy at the soda fountain. No believer could 
drink it straight or gentled at the fastidious and 
hopeful hour. No one should drink it with a cor- 
rosive added, which is the formula of the Daiquiri. 

There are only two cocktails. One can be de- 
scribed straightforwardly. It is a slug of whiskey 
and it is an honest drink. Those who hold by it at 
6:00 p.m. offend no canon of our fellowship. Scotch 
Irish, rye, bourbon at your will — but of itself alone. 
Whiskey and vermouth cannot meet as friends and 
the Manhattan is an offense against piety. With dry 
vermouth it is disreputable, with sweet vermouth 
disgusting. It signifies that the drinker, if male, has 
no spiritual dignity and would really prefer white 
mule; if female, a banana split. 

To make a slug of whiskey, you pour some whis- 
key on some ice. (Lately the fashionables have been 



34 The Hour 



saying "whiskey on the rocks"; suffer them pa- 
tiently. But do not let tolerance get out of hand. A 
few months ago in Chicago, at a once respectable 
bar, I was offered "Whiskey on the Blarney Stone" 
— the ice was colored green. Let the place be inter- 
dicted and its proprietor put to the torture.) The 
slug of whiskey is functional; its lines are clean. 
Perhaps the friend for whom you make it will want 
two or three drops of bitters. Fine: there is no harm 
in bitters, so long as they are Angostura — all others 
are condiments for a tea-shoppe cookbook. If he 
wants fruit salad in it, remind him that cocktails are 
drunk, not eaten, but go along with him as far as a 
thin halfslice of orange or, better, one of lemon peel. 
Deny him pineapple, cherries, and such truck as you 
would cyanide. If he asks for sugar, tell him you put 
it in to begin with, and thereafter be wary in your 
dealings with him. For sugar means that he is back- 
sliding and will soon cross the frontier to join the 
heathen, with bottles of grenadine and almond ex- 
tract in his pack. But before you give a slug of 
whiskey to anyone be sure that it is cold. Cocktails 
are cold. 

With the other cocktail we reach a fine and noble 
art, and we reach too the wars over the gospel that 
have parted brothers, wrecked marriages, and made 



For the Wayward and Beguiled 35 

enemies of friends. It is here that the heresies 
burgeon and the schismatics bay. I suppose it is 
natural enough. Those who seek the perfect thing 
must have intense natures; there are many roads for 
them to take, all difficult, none lighted more than fit- 
fully. No wonder if they mistake marsh fires for 
light, or when they find a light believe it is the only 
one. From their love comes their tirelessness to de- 
fend and praise their love — tenaciously, arrogantly, 
intolerantly, vindictively. We may understand how 
cults form with the martini as with all arts, how 
rituals develop, how superstitious or even sorcerous 
beliefs and practices betray a faith that is passionate 
and pure but runs easily to fanaticism. But though 
we understand these matters we must not be lenient 
toward them for they divide the fellowship. Always 
remember that differences among ourselves will give 
arms to the heathen. Frighten a woman with a bit of 
ritual and you may produce a hostess who will serve 
Manhattans. Affront a man with cultish snobbery 
and you may turn him, God forbid, to rum. 

For instance there is a widespread notion that 
women cannot make martinis, just as some islanders 
believe that they cast an evil spell on the tribal fish- 
nets. This is a vagrant item of male egotism: the art 
of the martini is not a sex-linked character. Of men 



For the Wayward and Beguiled 37 

and women alike it requires only intelligence and 
care — oh, perhaps some additional inborn spiritual 
fineness, some feeling for artistic form which, if it 
isn't genius, will do quite as well. Or take the super- 
stition, for I cannot dignify it as a heresy, that the 
martini must not be shaken. Nonsense. This perfect 
thing is made of gin and vermouth. They are self- 
reliant liquors, stable, of stout heart; we do not have 
to treat them as if they were plover's eggs. It does 
not matter in the least whether you shake a martini 
or stir it. It does matter if splinters of ice get into 
the cocktail glass, and I suppose this small seed of 
fact is what grew into the absurdity that we must not 
"bruise the gin." The gin will take all you are 
capable of giving it, and so will the vermouth. An 
old hand will probably use a simple glass pitcher, as 
convenient or functional; it has no top and so can- 
not readily be shaken. But if a friend has given you 
a shaker, there are bar strainers in the world and you 
need have no ice splinters in your martinis. (The 
strainer made of spiral wire conduces to language 
that is unseemly at the cocktail hour; get one that 
has perforations instead.) 

A martini, I repeat, is made of gin and vermouth. 
Dry vermouth. Besides many bad vermouths, 
French, Italian, and domestic, there are many good 



38 The Hour 



ones. With a devoted spirit keep looking for one 
that will go harmoniously with the gin of your choice 
and is dependably uniform in taste. You have found 
a friend; stay with it. Stay with them both, store 
them in quantity lest mischance or sudden want 
overtake you, and in a world of change you will be 
able to count on your martinis from season unto 
season, year to year. 

Heresies more vicious than these vindicate the in- 
stinct of the faithful to do their drinking in their 
homes. We have proved our friends but anyone 
else's invitation to a cocktail party or casual sugges- 
tion that we stop by for a drink may take us to a 
house where martinis are made of sweet vermouth 
or of sweet mixed with dry. It is a grievous betrayal 
of trust; the bottles should not even be kept on 
neighboring shelves, still less brought near the 
martini pitcher. Indeed, sweet vermouth should not 
be kept on any shelf in my house or yours; the 
heathen put it to many uses but we know none for it. 
And, I suppose, nothing can be done with people 
who put olives in martinis, presumably because in 
some desolate childhood hour someone refused them 
a dill pickle and so they go through life lusting for 
the taste of brine. Something can be done with peo- 
ple who put pickled onions in: strangulation seems 



For the Wayward and Beguiled 39 

best.* But there is a deadlier enemy than these, the 
man who mixes his martinis beforehand and keeps 
them in the refrigerator till cocktail time. You can 
no more keep a martini in the refrigerator than you 
can keep a kiss there. The proper union of gin and 
vermouth is a great and sudden glory; it is one of the 
happiest marriages on earth and one of the shortest- 
lived. The fragile tie of ecstasy is broken in a few 
minutes, and thereafter there can be no remarriage. 
The beforehander has not understood that what is 
left, though it was once a martini, can never be one 
again. He has sinned as seriously as the man who 
leaves some in the pitcher to drown. 

A voice from the floor reminds me that there may 
be dire emergencies. True, though not in your own 
home; they usually come when some hostess whose 

* One tribe of our enemies drink something they call a 
Gibson. They are not drinking a cocktail, they are drink- 
ing gin with an onion in it. Still, it is well to know the 
name. The cocktail hour may overtake you sometime when 
you are far from any bar you know. It is never safe to 
order a martini at a strange bar — order a slug of whiskey. 
But if you feel venturesome, you may get some leading by 
waiting till someone else is served a martini. If it has a 
pronounced color the bartender is a felon, and you will be 
farther along toward your desire if you order a Gibson and 
command him to leave the onion out. 



40 The Hour 



favorite drink is green mint mixed with whipping 
cream asks you to make martinis. She has sweet 
vermouth — she is the one who buys it. Well, make 
the proportion practically unthinkable, say seven to 
one — and remind your companions that the 
product has a high muzzle velocity. If she has sherry 
you will be much better off. Govern the proportions 
according to its dryness; five to one will do if it is 
very dry, and put a pinch of common table salt into 
the pitcher. These drinks are not martinis, they are 
only understudies, but they damn no souls. They 
are incomparably better than Manhattans, marsh- 
mallows, or rum. 

Sound practice begins with ice. There must be a 
lot of it, much more than the catechumen dreams, 
so much tha f the gin smokes when you pour it in. 
A friend of mine has said it for all time; his formula 
ends "and five hundred pounds of ice." Fill the 
pitcher with ice, whirl it till dew forms on the glass, 
pour out the melt, put in another handful of ice. 
Then as swiftly as possible pour in the gin and ver- 
mouth, at once bring the mixture as close to the 
freezing point of alcohol as can be reached outside 
the laboratory, and pour out the martinis. You must 
be unhurried but you must work fast, for a diluted 
martini would be a contradiction in terms, a viola- 



For the Walward and Beguiled 41 

tion of nature's order. That is why the art requires 
so much ice and why the artist will never mix more 
than a single round at a time, counting noses. 

And I'm sorry, you are not a bartender. There 
are cultists whose pride is to achieve the right pro- 
portion by instinct, innate talent, the color of the 
mixture, or what Aunt Fanny said about born cooks. 
They are the extreme fanatics and would almost as 
soon drink an Alexander as measure out their wares. 
I honor a great many of them who have served me 
sound martinis made with what they thought of as 
perfected skill. I honor them — but the martinis 
vary from round to round, and one or another must 
fall short of perfected skill. Serenely accept the cul- 
tist's scorn and measure your quantities with an extra 
glass. 

There is a point at which the marriage of gin and 
vermouth is consummated. It varies a little with the 
constituents, but for a gin of 94.4 proof and a har- 
monious vermouth it may be generalized at about 
3.7 to one. And that is not only the proper propor- 
tion but the critical one; if you use less gin it is a 
marriage in name only and the name is not martini. 
You get a drinkable and even pleasurable result, but 
not art's sunburst of imagined delight becoming 
real. Happily, the upper limit is not so fixed, you 



42 The Hour 



may make it four to one or a little more than that, 
which is a comfort if you cannot do fractions in your 
head and an assurance when you must use an un- 
familiar gin. But not much more. This is the violet 
hour, the hour of hush and wonder, when the affec- 
tions glow and valor is reborn, when the shadows 
deepen along the edge of the forest and we believe 
that, if we watch carefully, at any moment we may 
see the unicorn. But it would not be a martini if 
we should see him. 

So made, the martini is only one brush stroke 
short of the perfect thing, and I will rebuke no one 
who likes to leave it there. But the final brush stroke 
is a few drops of oil squeezed from lemon rind on 
the surface of each cocktail. Some drop the squeezed 
bit into the glass; I do not favor the practice and 
caution you to make it rind, not peel, if you do. 
And, of course, you will use cocktail glasses, not cups 
of silver or any other metal, and they will have 
stems so that heat will not pass from your hand to 
the martini. Purists chill them before the first 
round. If any of that round (or any other) is left in 
the pitcher, throw it away. 

The goal is purification and that will begin after 
the first round has been poured, so I see no need 
for preliminary spiritual exercises. But it is best 



For the Wayward and Beguiled 43 

approached with a tranquil mind, lest the necessary 
speed become haste. Tranquillity ought normally 
to come with sight of the familiar bottles. If it 
doesn't, feel free to hum some simple tune as you 
go about your preparations; it should be nostalgic 
but not sentimental, neither barbershop nor jazz, 
between the choir and the glee club. Do not whistle, 
for your companions are sinking into the quiet of 
expectation. And you need not sing, for presently 
there will be singing in your heart. 



3 



The Enemy 



W 



E CAN'T sit around all afternoon; there is 
evil to be dealt with. We might as well begin with 
the soda fountain, for that is where a lot of it begins 
and I have already shown you the distressing spec- 
tacle of people trying to get back there by way of 
Cointreau and white mint or rum and Coca-Cola. 
Americans are too indulgent to their children; they 
give them too much money to spend on sweets. I 
don't suppose the stuff does them any immediate 
harm but it does give them false values. Chocolate, 

45 



46 The Hour 



maple syrup, two dozen other syrups; marshmallow, 
fudge, butterscotch, two dozen other goos; the whole 
catalogue of pops, tonics, phosphates, and trade- 
marked soft drinks that would corrode any plumb- 
ing except a growing child's — they may seem in- 
nocent but they aren't. An ice-cream soda can set a 
child's feet in the path that ends in grenadine, and 
when you see someone drinking drambuie, creme de 
menthe, Old Tom gin, or all three stirred together 
and topped off with a maraschino cherry, you must 
remember that he got that way from pineapple milk- 
shakes long ago. Pity him if you like but treat him 
as you would a carrier of typhoid. For if the Re- 
public ever comes crashing down, the ruin will have 
been wrought by this lust for sweet drinks. 

Then there are publishers. They are usually re- 
garded as servants of the good life and it's true that 
many of them, as individuals, do live soundly, with 
impeccable observances, with marked devotion to 
good liquor. But that only shows that we can never 
relax our vigilance anywhere, in any circumstance 
of life. For there is no publisher in the United States 
who has not spread infection far more widely than 
all the typhoid carriers who ever lived. That they 
have succeeded in getting the virus into your home 
and mine doesn't matter for we are immune to it. 



The Enemy 47 



But they have got it there. Go out to the kitchen 
and look at the books your wife keeps on the shelf. 
Pick up one and glance through it. Then think of 
the American homes that have not been immunized. 

I'm talking about cookbooks. Every publishing 
house has from three to a dozen of them and they 
are money in the bank. Soon or late, usually not 
very late, this season's novel about the bitch with 
the compassionate heart in rural Georgia or the 
court of Louis XV stops selling. A cookbook never 
does. In season or out, fat years or lean, it is the 
mainstay of the publishing business. The grand- 
children of the author, who lived in the era when 
recipes began "take four pounds of butter and four 
dozen eggs," set up trust funds for their grandchil- 
dren, and the publisher loves them more warmly 
than the novelist who makes Book-of-the-Month 
Club every time. I don't know how many cookbooks 
are sold but it must be upwards of a million copies 
a year. Every copy has enough virus in it to infect 
a city of fifty thousand; every copy is a recruiting 
office for the enemy. 

Presumably when the plates are worn out and a 
new edition is called for the publisher hires some- 
one to go over and check the recipes in all sections 
but one. If he finds some solecism about chervil, out 



48 The Hour 



it comes. I dare say, even, that they sometimes actu- 
ally make and taste the white sauce to see whether 
someone has pulled a howler. But the section fraudu- 
lently labeled ' 'Beverages" has stood unmodified 
since it was first perpetrated; no one has bothered 
to so much as correct the typographical errors. Fur- 
thermore, it is the same in all cookbooks, having 
gone out of copyright in 1895. And if the time when 
it was written was the lush days of four pounds of 
butter in the pantry, it was also the holy-horror era 
in our drinking mores. As I have shown, the basic 
idea was to see how many ingredients you could put 
into a drink, especially a cocktail, and still survive. 
Year by year, that mania of our national adolescence 
killed more Americans than smallpox, the Colt re- 
volver, or the Indians. Yet publishers go on in- 
dorsing the same toxins to more than a million 
women a year. 

For it's women who buy cookbooks and women 
who use the Beverage section. Their male counter- 
parts own comically written ptomaine-manuals 
stolen from Jerry Thomas and bound in stainproof 
covers, called Jolly Drinking; Prosit, Folks; or The 
Gent's Guide to Bartending. (These too are com- 
missioned, printed, and sold by publishers.) I am 
not concerned with the married women who use 



The Enemy 49 



them — usually married to the counterparts — un- 
less you think it possible to sterilize or massacre 
them on a sufficiently rewarding scale. But I am 
concerned about some women for they could be 
saved. 

No doubt the publishers would plead caveat 
emptor, it's no skin off their nose, anyone who has 
to go to a cookbook to find out how a cocktail is 
made deserves anything she may find there. De- 
murrer disallowed: we are entitled to protection, if 
she isn't. We already know about the married 
wench and it's our own fault if we ever give her a 
second chance to come up to us with an arch smile, 
holding out a glass of liquid distemper and saying 
"Bet you can't guess what's in this." But these books 
come into the hands of women who aren't married. 
Some of them may be attractive, all are at least well- 
meaning, and a moment of unwariness or even 
simple good manners may land any of us at a party 
that one of them has worked up from a cookbook. 
The courts of Massachusetts do not hesitate to sup- 
press, in the name of public safety, a book that con- 
cedes the existence of two sexes or the possession by 
one of them of a bifurcated bosom. Is there no threat 
to the public safety in a book which directs a good- 
looking girl to serve the identical formula that 



The Enemy 51 



turned Great-Uncle Harry's kidneys to pumice and 
brought him to the grave thirty years before his 
time? 

This subject is as repugnant to me as it can pos- 
sibly be to you but we have got to face what goes on. 
Passing over twenty pages of emetics and mickey 
finns compounded on other bases which the cook- 
book assures a hostess are wonderful, take a look at 
what can be, and is, done with gin. In the first two 
of five pages devoted to what it calls "gin cocktails" 
I find formulas, each under a jolly name, that tell a 
woman to add to honest gin: grenadine; chartreuse; 
creme de men the; grenadine, lemon juice, and egg 
white; cherry brandy, kirsch, sweet cider, and rasp- 
berry syrup; Cointreau and lemon juice; creme de 
menthe, egg white, lemon juice, and orange juice; 
lime juice and apricot brandy; claret, orange juice, 
and Jamaica ginger; grenadine, egg white, lemon 
juice, orange bitters, and sugar — and, so help me 
God, a seizure that says to mix gin two to one with 
port and add a dash of orange bitters. Merely to 
read the formulas paralyzes the stomach muscles for 
as much as twenty minutes and a single sip would 
send the iron dog of the epoch they originated in 
galloping toward the nearest fire hydrant. But there 
you are. These books are sold freely over the 



52 The Hour 



counter, even in these days of national peril. A per- 
fectly nice woman might obey any of those instruc- 
tions — and don't forget for a moment that she 
might offer the result to you. 

She is probably about twenty-seven, give or take 
a couple of years, and let's do what we can for her. 
She has lived alone too long, she had a happy child- 
hood, and nobody has ever told her that childhood's 
sweet tooth is how she went wrong. (By the way, 
never accept a divorced woman's invitation to cock- 
tails until you have looked into her divorce; it may 
very well have resulted from something that began 
"take a cupful of gin and four tablespoonfuls of 
grenadine.") She is a bright girl, though, and when 
a man takes her to a bar she suppresses her impulses 
and orders what he does or else says "Scotch on the 
rocks." (The only innate fault in women as drink- 
ers is that they think too highly of Scotch.) All her 
friends are civilized and so she has always had decent 
cocktails in the home. The trouble comes when she 
decides to wipe the slate clean and have twenty 
people in to cocktails. Her boss would have been 
fired long since if she didn't do his thinking for him. 
She can show the Income Tax people exactly where 
they are misconstruing their own regulations. She 
can beat the racket at a fur sale. But the moment she 



The Enemy 53 



starts thinking about giving a cocktail party in her 
own apartment her self-confidence begins to ooze 
away. The insecurity of the single gnaws at her and 
by the time she has made out the list of guests, she's 
licked. She makes straight for a cookbook. 

Nothing is going to change that. She will always 
make for a cookbook till one of those parties achieves 
its purpose — we know that nineteen of the twenty 
guests are just smokescreen — and he proves it to 
her in their own pantry. The only thing to do is to 
change the cookbook. 

And a good idea from every point of view. So, not 
only for a million women and twenty million 
stomachs they would not knowingly endanger but 
also on behalf of public enlightenment, I offer the 
following without fee or royalty to all publishers 
who will contract to substitute it for the Beverage 
section in their handbooks. 

Ce qu'il faut connaitre des coktels 
Pour les hostesses 

1. Relax, sister; it's easy. And the more you'll relax, 
the easier it will be. Memorize this: simplicity, in- 
tegrity, nothing mysterious, nothing fancy, nothing 
sweet. 



54 The Hour 



2. Throw away that bottle of grenadine. Never buy 
another one. 

3. Leave today's special at the liquor store alone: 
it's for cause. The reason the man cut the price on 
that stuff is that he couldn't move it; people recog- 
nized it as what it is. Go without lunch for a couple 
of weeks if you have to, or cut the guests from twenty 
to ten. Cheap liquor is grudge liquor. 

4. Get two whiskeys, Scotch and either rye or bour- 
bon. (I'm being easy on your budget. A rye man 
won't be offended by bourbon or vice versa but 
Scotch drinkers want Scotch and you've got to give 
it to them. Never touch the stuff myself.) Bonded 
rye or bourbon; or, if you really are hard up, un- 
bonded but straight. Never a blend, even a blend 
of straight whiskeys. Some charged water; perfectly 
sound people may want a highball at the cocktail 
hour — they're going to stop off at a couple of other 
parties before dinner. No ginger ale — I said, no 
ginger ale. A bottle of the driest sherry; ask a friend 
you trust what brand he likes. (Cool it a little if 
you want to but don't chill it — you might as well 
boil it. Don't have much to do with people who 
drink sherry at any time except with the soup; 
there's something wrong with them. It's inoffensive, 
though, so long as it's dry.) Get American gin and 



The Enemy 55 



get it in the highest price range. Cheap gin is for 
hangovers; whatever imported gin may be for, it 
isn't for martinis. 

5. Orange bitters make a good astringent for the 
face. Never put them in anything that is to be 
drunk. 

6. Nothing sweet. If I'm repeating myself it's be- 
cause I know you and have got to check up on you. 

7. Remember what I've said about ice. Your neigh 
borhood store sells it. About a dollar's worth. 

8. Turn down the thermostat. 

9. If somebody insists on an old-fashioned and you 
see no way out, dissolve the damn sugar in a little 
water before you put the whiskey in — it won't dis- 
solve in alcohol. If somebody asks for one made of 
Scotch, say no, politely if you can manage to, but say 
no. 

10. Nothing sweet, and that goes double for ver- 
mouth. 

11. I have already declared the gospel in full but 
let's make the main points again. Martinis, slugs of 
whiskey, highballs, and if you must an old-fashioned. 
Nothing else. You don't care to know anybody who 
wants anything else. And everything you serve must 
be cold. No surplus, no dividend, nothing for the 
pot. Mix every round from scratch. 



The Enemy 57 



12. Let's be clear about this: no Manhattans and no 
rum. 

As I have shown, my dear (see how a properly 
made drink softens a man), it's easy to make a good 
martini and it is impossible not to make a good slug 
of whiskey if you've got good whiskey and a con- 
fiding nature. But for God's sake, develop a little 
skill and then do the job unostentatiously. We 
don't drink cocktails on our knees and there's no 
point in making them that way; so no ritual, be off- 
hand, be casual and decently fast. An appearance 
of habituated ease will get you off to a running start 
with that guy. He will equate sound liquor with 
sound gal and the second round will do things to 
your figure that Elizabeth Arden could not do for 
you in three months. You're in, darling, and all you 
had to do was steer clear of chartreuse, egg white, 
and cyanide. 

Subsidiary matters are not within my province 
but so many of you phone in about a couple of them 
that I might as well tell you where the rules com- 
mittee stands. Actually, if you'll supply a couple of 
good cheeses and a couple of kinds of good crackers, 
you won't have to serve anything else. Make one of 
them ordinary American cheddar, as snappy as it 
comes, and the other a fairly high one. In any event, 



58 The Hour 



don't serve anything fussy and the woman who mixes 
cream cheese and Roquefort and stuffs celery with 
it does not belong among us. 

And there is no hangover in our liquor unless you 
are too young for your own good. Get the kind of 
liquor I've told you to and use it properly and you'll 
face the dawn without a flutter or a qualm and so 
will all your guests. But maybe one of them takes 
more than we have learned is bright? Or maybe that 
guy doesn't respond as fast as you had hoped and 
you take one or two above yourself? Well, a vast 
deal of nonsense is talked about preventives and 
cures of hangovers. Practically all of it is talked by 
people we don't want in the house. Only the Chuck 
and Mable type I'll be telling you about in a minute 
would swallow cream or olive oil or such stuff be- 
forehand — what a hell of a way to approach a good 
hour and a good drink! Or that folklore about 
Vitamin B. If I must speak plainly, anyone who 
takes a massive dose of Vitamin B will within an 
hour need to bathe with Lifebuoy or stay out in the 
open air. If I must continue to speak plainly, don't 
overdrink. 

But since you ask me, here's what your family 
doctor does when he finds that the last two have 
crept upon him unaware. It's a three-shot treat- 



The Enemy 59 



ment, best taken before going to bed but also effec- 
tive tomorrow morning. Up to a teaspoonful of 
baking soda in a glass of water, or the equivalent of 
some other alkalizer. Twenty grains of aspirin or 
some other mild opiate. And three-quarters of a 
grain to a grain and a half (depending on how you 
react to it) of nembutal, Seconal, or any other bar- 
biturate of equal strength. Stomach, head, jitters — 
that does it. And next time pull up at the three- 
quarters post. 

I've been talking about people who go wrong 
through ignorance or unfortunate upbringing, not 
wickedness, and about portions of American culture 
where the blight is curable. Now for the corruption 
that has honeycombed enormous sections of a fair 
and pleasant land, and for the enemy, the barbarians, 
the real bastards. It is alarmingly probable that you 
don't know how fearful this decadence is or how 
widely it has spread. We are amiable people, our 
kindly sentiments kept active by the kindly liquor 
we drink, and disposed to believe that in a country 
of equal opportunity for all, the natural goodness of 
mankind will lead everyone to cultivate the same ex- 
cellence we practice. That is a dangerous state of 
mind; it could open the city and the citadel to the 
screeching horde while we talked at ease over a 



60 The Hour 



martini. Which is why I had better, in all humility, 
tell you my own experience; it brought me to grips 
with evil and its harsh moral is that the underground 
can get to members of a man's own family. 

It befell at Christmas time, a season when we 
think charitably of nearly everyone and everything. 
Chimes in church steeples fill the lavender evening 
with carols almost as heartwarming as the sound of 
martinis stirred in a pitcher, and after a couple that 
have been stirred properly the carols from loud- 
speakers along the avenue are not really offensive. 
We glow with loving-kindness and the fellowship is 
willing to relax its discipline and let those of its 
members who have a strong sense of ceremony drink 
eggnog or Tom and Jerry. . . . Not me. Not, I judge, 
any of the purest. Hot drinks are for people who 
have had skiing accidents, though it is an open ques- 
tion whether anyone who skis is worth giving liquor 
to or his life worth saving. Cream and eggs have 
their place but that place is not an alcoholic drink, 
and it is no more right to foul up honest liquor with 
them than to poison it with spinach juice. You give 
them to invalids? I don't know why. True, every 
invalid, every sufferer, everyone to whom your sym- 
pathy goes out, will be cheered, strengthened, and 
restored by a slug of good whiskey. Or half a dozen, 



The Enemy 61 



decently spaced. But don't confuse whiskey with 
diet and don't mix them. Remember always that the 
three abominations are: (1) rum, (2) any other 
sweet drink, and (3) any mixed drink except one 
made of gin and dry vermouth in the ratio I have 
given. 

What's that? Does this hold for punches? See 
here, have I got to stick my neck out about every- 
thing? Well, you asked for a ruling. It is true that 
many stirring scenes and high moments in the 
American past are associated with punch. But our 
national past contained other things we would not 
countenance now and can't be proud of. So does 
our personal past. I confess that there were times 
when I drank punch, even times when I persuaded 
myself it wasn't as awful as it tasted. When I was 
young I was as foolish as the next one, and I went 
through the whole repertoire, both ways from Fish 
House, including the traditional punches of elegant 
and select societies and the even more fearful ones 
that have come down in some very odd family lines. 
Let's be honest. There is no such thing as a good 
punch; there isn't even a drinkable one. It's sweet, 
isn't it? It's mixed, isn't it? It has got rum in it, hasn't 
it? It is invariably an ignoble thing, it is made to 
serve liquor to people economically — if you can't 



62 The Hour 



serve good liquor to a lot of people, serve good liquor 
to a few people. Put it this way. Maybe you like a 
good Burgundy, or a Pouilly, or a Champagne. How 
would you like it mixed with root beer and Veg-8? 

As I was saying. There had been premonitory 
signs, like the froth that runs in a stream ahead of a 
flood, but I did not recognize them for what they 
were. I saw listed among the New Yorker's sugges- 
tions for Christmas gifts an expensive machine 
which at a touch of one button would deliver three 
gin and at touch of another button one of vermouth. 
I tolerantly reflected that among my friends are some 
who, if they received this obscenity for Christmas, 
would need a new gin button long before the ver- 
mouth one showed wear, and then fatuously forgot 
about it. Next, walking up Fifth Avenue, I stopped 
to look at a jeweler's window and saw there a satin- 
lined case somewhat larger than a woman's traveling 
bag, containing a corkscrew, a bottle opener, and a 
silver jigger, all with large, ornate horn handles 
and the set priced at $85. (Probably $150 this year 
and on sale at a thousand places.) With the same 
foolish tolerance I thought, ah, yes, the rich — and 
though this was a pustule of the plague before my 
eyes, thought no more. But my heedlessness was 
shattered on Christmas morning. I found at the foot 



The Enemy 63 



of the tree — no flinching now, let's face it, they 
Were given to me by my wife — a dozen glass stir- 
ring-rods, each containing a thermometer and each 
thermometer marked with a green-colored zone be- 
tween 50° and 32°, the zone, said the box top, of 
proper and pleasurable drinking. This horrified me 
and I was aroused at last but panic did not strike till 
a few days later, when the mail brought me a cata- 
logue from a shop where I had once bought a cock- 
tail shaker: a simple, undecorated article, I take my 
oath, a clear glass pitcher of convenient size, with a 
handle and a lip that facilitates pouring — in no way 
quaint or cute. That catalogue spread the full hor- 
ror before me and I saw what evil had spread among 
my countrymen while I drowsed in lotos land, an 
honest drink in a plain glass in my hand. I sought 
out other catalogues. I visited many stores and made 
many inquiries. There had been no error or mis- 
take; the evidence of the first catalogue stands. Fash- 
ionable household-goods shops sell the same cloacal 
objects, gifte shoppes sell them, your favorite depart- 
ment store sells them, the terrifying truth is that you 
cannot walk half a mile in any business district in the 
United States without finding some of them offered 
for sale — and sold. 

What is it like in a house where the family has 



64 The Hour 



been seized by some fearful madness such as the 
tarantelle? What is it like when you visit such a 
house and find strangers once your friends staring at 
you with bright eyes out of delusions that report 
to them images of fever, hallucinatory images of 
nothing that exists in the clean, sane world? I can 
give you an idea, for I can tell you what it is like in 
the American home that has made drinking whim- 
sical. 

Chuck, the host, is wearing a white canvas apron 
that has stamped on it a picture of a mustached bar- 
tender shaking up a drink; droll legends have been 
painted on the bar and block capitals above the bar- 
tender's head read, "Name your Pizen, Gents." 
Chuck's wife Mable has on a similar apron that 
makes her appear to be clad in a big corset with ex- 
aggerated falsie-cups and ever so funny umbrella 
drawers, you know, gay-nineties stuff, daring as all 
hell. If the kiddies have not yet been sent upstairs 
with a handful of marshmallows from Chuck's bar, 
they are dancing up and down and screaming with 
laughter, costumed in little aprons just like Popsie's 
and Mom's. Signs have been tacked up in the hall: 
a pointing hand which says "To the Bar. Check 
your Morals," or "Don't Take Yourself So Blamed 
Seriously," or "Danger: Men Drinking," or up to 



66 The Hour 



a dozen others just as witty. Mable likes to protect 
her furniture — and God knows she has to, with the 
people she entertains — but in the spirit of things 
likes to do so with hospitable glee. So she has set up 
"Cutie Coas trays," each of which has "a different 
gay gag" (such as "Danger: Hangover Under Con- 
struction"), or perhaps the set of eight will show a 
stripteaser in successive stages of her act. 

All this sets a gay mood and wins jolly smiles from 
the guests but the really hilarious merriment does 
not begin till Chuck gets to work. He has a "torso 
squeezer" for limes, though the designation is in- 
accurate for it isn't in the shape of a torso, it's a pair 
of legs, daringly naked. (He also has a bottle stop- 
per with legs issuing from it.) There are torsos on 
some muddlers but they will be discovered only by 
discerning people who hold one to the light so that 
it casts the shadow of a breast. He has bottle stop- 
pers with torsos on them too, some bound with what 
you can be sure he calls a "bras" but some, hot 
damn!, quite nude. He has lots of bottle openers, 
all comical but discarded as he found funnier gags. 
He is not likely to surpass the newest one, which he 
now leads off with. It is called Horse's Rosette and 
the catalogue says, "it's the 'south end' of a Chestnut 
horse done in natural rich russet." Chuck backs it 



The Enemy 67 



over a bottle cap and the roar of laughter he gets is 
worth the four-fifty he paid for it. 

That is only the first roar. When you take a 
cigarette the box plays "How Dry I Am." One of 
Chuck's bottles plays the same tune, another one 
"For He's a Jolly Good Fellow," and if you go up- 
stairs "one of the world's greatest laugh producers" 
will play one, loudly, on the toilet-paper roll. Want 
a cocktail? (Chuck calls them that.) He uses a 
shaker waggishly made in the form of a dinner bell, 
with a handle to swing it by. That's for tonight — 
he has another one that looks like a fire extinguisher 
though it's stamped "Thirst Extinguisher" of course, 
and a third that has very stewed roisterers on it and 
a fourth with formulas for half a dozen reliable 
vomitories. Your cocktail glass narrows to a rounded 
base so that you cannot set it down — we don't 
linger over drinks here — and a female nude is 
stretched over that bottom. (Bottom, see: convuls- 
ing.) Or maybe tonight the glasses with tipsy stems 
remind you it's brave and manly to get soused, or, 
more likely, Chuck uses those whose stems are nude 
women which, the page says, will make the guest 
more interested in the glass than in the drink. If 
you don't want a cocktail — and you don't — the 
highball glass will have comic souses on it, maybe, 



68 The Hour 



or an electric bulb in the base will light up when 
you take it off the table. 

Maybe; but in his glassware (and every other ad- 
junct of the bar where it's possible) Chuck prefers 
to bring whimsy and liquor and nudity together. He 
has retired the glasses that had prankish pink ele- 
phants on them and all the others that were just gags, 
however sidesplitting. The new ones are all girls. 
The girls are wearing clothes on the outside of the 
glass, the side someone else sees, but as you drink you 
make out that, on the inside, either they are taking 
off their clothes or they didn't have any on to begin 
with. Another set has girls who are dressed when 
you pour the drink in but naked after the picture 
has soaked for a while. But the one Chuck thinks is 
the drollest has an opaque frosting except that a 
clear space has been left in the shape of a keyhole, 
and as you drink, oh, boy, what you can see through 
that keyhole! 

Lots of other naked and half-dressed girls too. 
The legs on the bottle stopper. The bottle stopper 
with the other half of a naked girl on it, the one 
with half a girl in a bras, and another one with a 
girl in bras and panties, for you can be quite sure 
Chuck calls them panties. And don't miss the set of 
eight mugs whose handles are nudes successively 



The Enemy 69 



sprawling toward the rim and finally falling over it. 
Next to undressed girls the funniest gags are souses. 
Some of the glasses have souses on them, some have 
wisecracks about getting soused, there are drunks on 
lampshades and trays, game-room walls are spotted 
with framed jokes about hangovers and falling up- 
stairs. And one of Chuck's "pourers" — a pourer is 
a gadget you put over the neck of the bottle — is in 
the shape of a drunk hanging on to a lamppost. He 
has a red nose, for humor, and he's holding out a 
bottle which is the spout you pour through; the 
lamp on the post lights up and it's marked "Say 
When." 

Chuck certainly has done it up brown. There are 
lots of other gags, some of them neither girly nor 
stewed, just laughable. There are stoppers that look 
like hillbillies, Mexicans, Frenchies, Indians, hobos. 
Some of the pourers shut themselves off and some 
make cracks about Scotch — means stingy. Funniest 
damn thing he's got, though, is the hat he presently 
offers you or puts on himself; it has an ice bag in the 
crown and a bandage for the forehead and ear plugs 
and pockets for Bromo Seltzer, and the wisecracks 
printed on it would double you up. He has bottles 
that look like everything except bottles and a bar 
radio that looks like a bottle. He has six-in-one im- 



70 The Hour 



plements that will do anything to a drink except 
swallow it, big hammers for little ice cubes, a tray 
that looks like a violin, paper napkins with limericks 
on them, ash trays in the shape of false teeth, comical 
dolls that hold pretzels and potato chips, and every- 
where you turn big cards with formulas for drinks. 
You know what the formulas are. They're just 
like the ones in the cookbooks, only they're witty 
and have wicked allusions to girls scattered through 
them. They tell you to mix milk and honey with 
Scotch. Or creme de cassis and sweet vermouth and 
rye and soda. Or pour some whiskey over tansy 
leaves. Or Irish and grenadine. Or sloe gin and dry 
vermouth and Scotch and bitters and phosphate and 
powdered sugar and a little nutmeg on top. Or stir 
into whatever liquor you're using some whipped 
cream laced with grenadine. Or to bourbon add 
grenadine mixed with strong Pekoe and Curasao and 
evaporated milk and confectioner's sugar and cinna- 
mon. Merely to read them threatens to produce 
emesis and there is greater nausea in realizing that 
these things are actually drunk. They are drunk 
by Chuck in a funny hat and Mable who has just 
wound up the music box in the toilet and their 
group of merry friends, from glasses which light up 
and displav a blonde taking off her skirt. 



The Enemy 71 



My country, oh, my country! these are the louts 
who but for the fellowship could bring thee down. 
But, brethren, give them one moment of compassion 
— so little aware of liquor, so little worthy of it, that 
they must make it coy and cute and leering, of such 
small personal resources that it can free them to no 
wellbeing of their own. They do not like the good- 
ness of good liquor, for they kill its taste with dis- 
gusting things. They do not get from it the reconcil- 
iation that knits up the raveled day for you and me, 
for they have to buy their wit on printed cards. 
They have not got the imagination nor the com- 
panionableness nor the human sensitiveness that 
good drinking nurtures to a glow. They drink their 
messes to the end that a slight mechanical lewdness 
may seem daring. That they may look at a woman 
and a drink of liquor without panic. That they may 
bray with a brassy laughter when someone fresh from 
a jokeshop produces still another glass, this time in 
the shape of a chamberpot. Even the stimulation 
they get is not the benevolence of alcohol but sys- 
temic poisoning, a rebellion of the stomach against 
the filth they pour into it. To their infantile minds 
there is something glorious and heroic in getting 
drunk and yet for all their daring they never get 
there. It is not drunkenness that makes them pass 



72 The Hour 



out on a game-room floor littered with last century's 
vaudeville jokes, not drunkenness, just botulism. 

One moment only, then put pity away from you. 
For if they live, the city and our fellowship will fall. 
Sound the trumpet and set up our standard in the 
square. From all parts of the city the honest, the 
virtuous, and the kindly will repair to it. To the 
sewer with their drinks, smash their glassware in the 
fireplace, and that mug whose handle is a bent and 
gartered knee will make a useful bludgeon for their 
skulls. Death and damnation to Chuck, Mable, and 
all their progeny and friends, to the last of them 
without heir or issue, till the air is pure again and 
we can walk the streets of a clean and quiet city, 
aware that we have saved our heritage. 

And speedily. For it's getting on toward six o'clock. 



4 



The Hour 



HE VISION is for the appointed time. 

It would be good to know what great man dis- 
covered distillation. We never will, but when his 
earliest disciples were finding out what a still could 
do words too had power. The water of life, they 
called the mystery, aqua vitae, eau de vie. They 
spoke well. 

May six o'clock never find you alone. The mys- 
tery's heart of hearts is mutuality. Men put down 
their packs to share the vanishing-away, nor can a 

75 



76 The Hour 



man hold a weapon in one hand if he has a drink in 
the other. But if you should be alone when evening 
comes on, then this benignant spirit is a good com- 
panion. Not by first choice a bar unless you are be- 
nighted on the road or in the streets, but if so then 
surely a bar — and worth going a fur piece, or a 
right smart one, to find the proper kind. Better per- 
haps a club. Avoid the University Club, any college 
club, for it will be full of young men. The young 
are not unsound as such — it is they who, properly 
schooled, must succeed us. But it does take them an 
unconscionable time to learn that we do not hold 
football rallies at six o'clock. Throughout the last 
quartering of the sun it has been an open question 
if we would make it and the odds grew longer with 
the shadows. We have crossed the line with spectral 
fingers missing us by only a hairsbreadth. In the mo- 
ment when we realize that we have made it after all 
and the heart whispers Not Today, we want no 
noise. A loud voice afflicts the ear worse than drums, 
though raised in comradeship, and song is not to be 
borne. 

Much can be said for the kind of club called stuffy. 
For one thing, the bartender must meet the constant 
criticism of experienced and discriminating men, 
the best of whom also compose the Cellar Commit- 



The Hour 11 



tee and buy thoughtfully. For another, propriety 
and age combine to make the membership speak in 
whispers. For fifteen years I have belonged to such a 
club and though that term has brought me to the 
estate where my friends' grandchildren stand up and 
offer me their chairs, I still remain a probationer 
plugging for the first form. If I hear a whisper 
speaking of "the war" I know it is not my war, which 
was also Black Jack Pershing's, but at the latest 
Admiral Dewey's and more likely the one our Con- 
federate members won. 

So it is a good place to reach just ahead of the 
pursuing feet. Tiptoeing across the almost dark 
cavern of the lounge (at the hour all lamps should 
be shaded and only a few of them lit, for if the body 
is in shadow the soul will the sooner turn toward the 
sun), I take my drink to a chair so big that one's head 
cannot be seen above its back, by a window that 
faces a cross-town street. We are near enough the 
avenue to hear the traffic diminishing. This is an 
hour of diminishing, of slowing down, of quieting. 
Thus islanded in dimness and the murmur of traffic 
fading toward silence, one is apt for the ministration. 
Calm against background tumult is an essential of 
the hour; it is the firelight shining through the cabin 
window on the snow of the forest, the strong shack 



78 The Hour 



beside a lake whose waters a gale is hurling up the 
shore. 

(Cabin. The martini is a city dweller, a metro- 
politan. It is not to be drunk beside a mountain 
stream or anywhere else in the wilds, not in the open 
there or even indoors. And this is not due to the 
facts that one must carry two kinds of liquor and 
that ice is hard to come by. I have sometimes taken 
gin and vermouth with me to the wilderness my 
trade requires me to visit and by good staff work 
have located ice. A martini is never bad and I could 
not be brought to dispraise it but it does not har- 
monize with campfires and sleeping bags. It does 
not feel at home on river boats, either — on any 
small boats. Whiskey is forthright and therefore 
better here. All cultural subtleties belong to the 
city — where else are women beautiful?) 

Which brings us to Marjorie. At six o'clock take 
Marjorie to a bar. And now we must be certain it is 
the right bar. This is one of the most satisfying of 
all the settings and combinations that life affords. 
And we owe it — we owe both Marjorie and the bar 
— to the age which I have said was mostly dark, to 
Prohibition. Prohibition sanctioned women to 
share liquor with men frankly, without surrepti- 
tiousness or shame. For the unilateral saloon — a 



80 The Hour 



pier and anchorage and buttress of virtuous living 
but sometimes of unpleasing decor and often much 
too boisterous at six o'clock — it substituted the 
speakeasy. The speakeasy was quietly decorated and 
happily illuminated, and both the pretense of se- 
crecy and the presence of women enforced quiet be- 
havior and good manners. When Repeal came we 
had the sense to apply the lesson and a good bar to- 
day is indistinguishable from a good speakeasy of 
1930. 

Quiet and softly lighted, of course, not necessarily 
tiny but at least small, only a few stools for the soli- 
tary, and if banquettes then not violently colored, 
if booths then not cramped. There is no more fit- 
ting place for the slackening of exigency, the with- 
drawal of necessity. Time is extensible, no hour 
must be met, there is no pressure to go anywhere 
else — we could eat next door but we'll take that 
up later on, don't bother about it now. She is a 
pretty woman and she will be prettier very soon. 
And she cannot sustain now the contrarieties of 
other hours and moods; they yield to the sovereign 
solvent. So it is Marjorie's presence that reveals the 
fullest meaning of the water of life; what it truly 
dissolves away is loneliness. She and good liquor at 



The Hour 81 



six p.m. — two warmths, two tendernesses, have met 
in the martini of the heart. 

Better still in Marjorie's own place, which should 
be several stories higher than my club window so 
that the slowing traffic may be still softer and the 
evening colors more fully seen, or in your own if by 
good fortune you have married her. There should 
always be a woman at the hour, to make the re- 
newal richer, to augment the beauties of evening 
and ease and alcohol, to orchestrate life's appetites. 
But though this may easily be love's hour it is not 
passion's, and though Marjorie is an enhancement, 
the fullness of fellowship extends beyond two, 
though not far beyond. The mystery, I have said, is 
magnanimous, expansive, social: it sinks the ego in 
benediction. 

A woman I know who makes so good a martini 
that she must be seeded with the ranking ten is 
usually forced to put her art to a use that will illus- 
trate what I mean. She is married to a lawyer and 
he is a good man, but he will never pass the 
screening that admits to the last circle. Late 
afternoon finds him, as it finds you and me, with all 
lost but courage, fighting honor's rear-guard action 
without hope. The penumbra grows and you know 



82 The Hour 



as well as I do what snarling the wind carries. My 
friend slips out of humanity, even as we do, and 
when with detached amazement he sees that he has 
lasted till the end of the day's job, like us he starts 
homeward fully aware that he has no chance of mak- 
ing it. That last shuddering half-hour! — the soul 
shredded to excelsior, the heart deaf and blind, the 
nerves carrying the overload that will burn out the 
last fuse. Like us he hears the jaws snap shut behind 
him as he goes through the door. But mark what 
happens now. He makes for a hot bath. And there 
he lies steaming and his accomplished wife serves 
him martinis that have the halo of perfection. 

No. This is too little spiritual; there is too much 
selfishness, too much ego, too much disregard. It 
forfeits too much. Bad enough to reduce a free spirit 
and an artist to a servitor, but worse to monopolize 
artist and art, focus the hour on himself, and scorn 
the fellowship. 

Build the citadel strong. I give you instead the 
knowledge that when you open that door on libera- 
tion there will be not only Marjorie but two or three 
or even four friends too. If one or two are women, 
let them be like Marjorie, soft-spoken, rewarding to 
look at, of quick intuition. Let the children play 
quietly apart or be locked in the coal cellar. The 



The Hour 83 



room quiet, the lamps shaded, dusk beyond the win- 
dows, and on the little table a big bowl of ice, and 
more vermouth and gin than we can possibly want. 
Whiskey if you say so, but why? — Marjorie and I 
have mastered the martini. 

The moment of tableau is far finer than that when 
the house lights go out, the footlights go on, and the 
conductor raises his baton to bring the strings and 
woodwinds in on the first beat. He has no symphony 
so rich as ours. Does it matter what the newsboys 
are yelling in the street? There. With that taste 
illusion ebbs away; the water of life has swept us 
into its current. 

The rat stops gnawing in the wood, the dungeon 
walls withdraw, the weight is lifted. Nerve ends 
that stuck through your skin like bristles when you 
blotted the last line or shut the office door behind 
you have withdrawn into their sheaths. Your pulse 
steadies and the sun has found your heart. You were 
wrong about the day, you did more admirably than 
you believed, you did well enough, you did well. 
The day was not bad, the season has not been bad, 
there is sense and even promise in going on. 

How fastidiously cold a second martini is to the 
palate but how warm to the heart, being drunk. 
What you seem to hear is not distant music but hope 



84 The Hour 



re-echoing in a now-lighted secrecy. These are good 
men, wise, considerate, indomitable. There is more 
richness than you remembered and you yourself 
have rediscovered the wit and sureness that the illu- 
sion hid. Observe the pinkness in Marjorie's cheeks, 
the eagerness in her eyes; she is shrewdly and subtly 
formed; how sagacious the way she has done her 
hair, how pleasant her dress, how responsive her 
fingers. 

The walls are breached. Are down. There were 
no walls. 

Certainly I'll have another one. The water of life 
was given to us to make us see for a while that we 
are more nearly men and women, more nearly kind 
and gentle and generous, pleasanter and stronger, 
than without its vision there is any evidence we are. 
It is the healer, the weaver of forgiveness and recon- 
ciliation, the justifier of us to ourselves and one 
another. One more, and then with a spirit made 
whole again in a cleansed world, to dinner. 



COLLEGE LIBRARY 

Date Due 
Due Returned Due Returned 





















































































































































































































The hour, main 
817.5D513h 1951 C.2 



3 12L.2 D3223 O^D 



Withcte^n from Ulf . Surveyed to ,,,, \